An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

October 28, 2009

Fall of the Dead

This past weekend while driving along Monticello Ave., I became distracted as a powerful force called my name from the other side of the cemetery wall. It was not the wail of the dead, but the foliage of a Crape Myrtle - a bright crimson red. The extraordinary rains we had in late summer may have made my favorite trees bloom with an added vigor, and though Crapes usually offer good fall color, I think this year's added moisture has caused that color to be unusually brilliant.

Crape Myrtle 1.2

Crape Myrtle 3

Elmwood Cemetery is not Norfolk's oldest, but it is perhaps the most elaborate, being developed in the 1850's and growing during the age when such places were considered destinations for quiet leisure, picnics and reflection. Just after the cemetery was opened it began filling with Yellow Fever victims, Civil War casualties and the prominent citizens of Norfolk. However, it did not fill with African Americans, Jews or Catholics - people from those demographics had to have their own places of burial. Do the dead care who is next them once they are gone? Somehow I don't think so, but even today, Norfolk's modern cemeteries are still somewhat segregated, not by decree, but by the choices the living make when buying plots. No matter the era or location, cemeteries are places created for and by the living, not the dead.

Core Mausoleum 1

Virginia Creeper in Viburnum 2

Dogwood 1

Poison Ivy 2

Maple 1

Sloan Mermorial 3


Rebel Fence 1

LeKies Mausoleum 2.1

Happy Halloween!


  1. Great pictures. I really love all the reds in the fall landscape. I was looking at the cemetery on County St. in Hampton today. Yours are interesting photos of the various headstones. Again, good eye.

  2. Les, Wonderful fall photos! The first Crape myrtle has that deep rich color of a viburnum. Beautiful...I can see why you stopped by to take a closer look. I love the post title, btw...very attention grabbing. gail

  3. Les, great photos! You have a great eye for composition. I really like the one of the berries with the Core Mausoleum in the background. I was out at Elmwood this afternoon myself and used a picture from there for my blog post.

  4. You remind me of my coming visit to Mississippi for Thanksgiving week. We'll make our annual visit to the Canton cemetery, where my parents are buried, but my visit there will go way back beyond to childhood. This is the place, the child's private, green paradise, where I played, climbed trees, got caught up in the mystery of the past, the long rows of upright stones marking graves of civil war soldiers. Very interesting that some of the most beautiful man-made landscapes in America are our old cemeteries.

    As always, your photography excels.

  5. Your crepe is simply awesome. I enjoy them so much in my garden though not all color up equally. I really find your comment that cemeteries are for the living and not the dead. Very true when you think about it but I often wonder what a person is thinking when they say something like "I wish to be buried under this tree on this hill." Do you suppose they are enjoying the view from the grave? For me when I am gone I'll be in the garden a part of the soil. Macabre or not it is the season is it not?

  6. Gorgeous shades of red and orange. The perfect post for Halloween. :)

  7. There is nothing as lovely and peaceful as a beautiful old cemetary. There is such a strong sense of history there as well.

    That Crape Myrtle is amazing. I wish I had one like it in my yard.

  8. Janet,
    I have not heard of that cemetery in Hampton, it is old?

    Thanks for your comments. I mulled several different titles around in my head and settled on this one at the last minute.

    Thanks for the compliment. I liked your shot as well. I get the impression you must work nearby, maybe HRT?

    How fortunate you were able to have that "playground" growing up. Many people think it a macabre place for kids, but an old cemetery can be a wonderful place. I used to visit Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond when I lived there and it has some stunning things to look at, including its vista overlooking the fall of the James.

    Have you heard about those new natural cemeteries where you can be buried to decompose or have your ashes scattered. They are developed as a sort of park with some plantings, wild areas and pathways. They do not have massive headstones or concrete vaults.

    I thought the colors appropriate as well.

    That was perhaps the most flamboyant crape in the cemetery, but there were several others. All of them around town look good this year.

    Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by.


  9. Fabulous Post! I love old cemeteries too. What a stunning Crape Myrtle. The photo with the C. flag is as spooky as your last. Beautiful photos! Carol

  10. Now if only there was an arm coming out of the dirt in front of one of the tombstones...(the funny thing is that I could have loaned you one for a season-appropriate visual!).

    Lovely images - and Happy Halloween to you.

  11. Lovely. We had late rains this summer too, and our crapemyrtles were the most beautiful I've ever seen. That is a splendid specimen. Loved your thoughts on cemeteries. I am Catholic and would have been buried elsewhere. It made me think.~~Dee

  12. Very 'eerie' title for a really nice post. I love the brilliant red of that 1st crape myrtle...they usually aren't that pretty so you did the right thing by responding to the 'call'. We have planted 5 of them in our yard, and they are lovely in the summer...but I've never seen them quite that striking in the fall! Your photos are perfect...clear, well composed, and the subject matter is interesting--not just for Halloween---but for any time;-)

  13. What a great, old cemetery. You'll have to show us the oldest one sometime too.